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Washington Ave Albany Corridor Study Opening Public Meeting Presentation Slides by alloveralbany on Scribd

Thinking about the future of Washington Ave

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March annotated map

Could there be a safer, friendlier, better version of upper Washington Ave in Albany?

That was the question at the heart of the the public kickoff meeting Wednesday for the Washington Avenue-Patroon Creek Corridor Study. The Capital District Transportation Committee is working with the city of Albany, the University at Albany, and engineering consultants to look at how the important transportation artery could work better for all sorts of people -- pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers.

This topic has been popping up a lot in recent years because of the ongoing development along the corridor, including the addition of private student housing. As a first step in addressing some of these concerns, the city of Albany lowered the speed limit on the stretch from 45 to 30 mph in 2016.

"We want to know from the users of the road, the neighbors of the road, what you think of the road, what you think the problems are," CDTC executive director Mike Franchini told the crowd.

Here are three quick takeaways...

Basic info

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March long map

The Washington Avenue-Patroon Creek Corridor Study is looking at the segment of Washington Ave from Brevator Street on the east to interchange for I-90 Exit 2 on the west.

The $90,000 study is backed by CDTC, and the engineering firm Creighton Manning is heading it up. It will be working toward producing a draft report with recommendations for sometime this fall, at which time there will be another opportunity for the public to offer input.

In the meantime, you can submit ideas and suggestions at the project's website.

Slides from the Wednesday's presentation are at the top in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

This study won't necessarily directly lead to a project that changes Washington Ave. It's more about getting a handle on what's happening there and then suggesting what the range of possibilities are.

OK, onto to those three takeaways...

The current road doesn't really match with the way people want to use it

Washington Ave Albany near Aspen private dorm 2016-September

The meeting drew about 50 people and they had plenty to say during a Q&A session and group mapping sessions about issues they have with the road in its current form. A quick, condensed, not-comprehensive list of concerns:

+ Speeding, red light running, and crashes.

+ Crosswalks and are far apart, the wait times to cross with the signals are too long, and the road itself is very wide for a pedestrian to cross.

+ The connections with adjacent parcels such as the Harriman State Office Campus and Patroon Creek development are confusing and hard to use.

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March square intersection

+ The ramps pulling in traffic from those adjacent parcels create dangerous interactions between vehicles and bikes.

+ The shoulders are full of gravel and debris that make them dangerous for cyclists to use.

+ And at least one person asked about restoring the speed limit to its older, higher level. (Driving at 30 mph with the road in its current design does feel very slow.)

Of course, people who are perfectly happy with something don't tend to show up at public meetings to voice their satisfaction. That said, people did have a wide range of complaints.

It sounds like there's a chance the recommendations will include a road diet or something similar

Madison Ave road diet striping
One of the road dieted sections of Madison Ave.

Many of those complaints point to there being a fundamental problem with the design of this part of Washington Ave -- mainly that it was built to handle much more traffic than it actually does.

Washington Ave is six lanes wide near Exit 2, five lanes wide near UAlbany's Collins Circle, and four lanes wide by Brevator Street.

In a presentation about the current condition of Washington Ave, Creighton Manning's Jesse Vogl highlighted the traffic volumes along the road: 19,500 vehicles per day by Exit 2 and 15,600 vehicles per day near the connection with Route 85.

Those totals put this section of Washington Ave below the 20,000 vehicles-per-day threshold recommended by the Federal Highway Administration for considering a road diet, the sort of reconfiguration the city has been applying to Madison Ave in Pine Hills. A road diet typically includes a reduction in the number of vehicle lanes in order to calm traffic and open up space for pedestrian and bike amenities. (Madison Ave traffic volume: 15,500.)

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March presentation vehicle volume
A slide from the presentation.

Vogl also showed a graph depicting the number of vehicles per hour along Washington Ave throughout the day. There was no point when that figure rose above the guideline for a three-lane roadway.

That's not to say that a road diet is necessarily the best choice for Washington Ave. But the numbers suggest it's something that will get consideration.

The bigger picture is worth thinking about

Washington Ave corridor study meeting 2018-March Brevator road diet

This corridor study is focused tightly along Washington Ave itself. But it's hard to talk about many of the issues without also talking about, for example, the ring roads around the State Office Campus, or access at the Patroon Creek development, or the fact that Brevator is bizarrely wide.

In retrospect, there are probably a lot of planning decisions in this corridor that people would like to have back. Maybe there's an alternate timeline in which Route 85 doesn't act like a barrier to extending one of the city's most-desired neighborhoods, the State Campus isn't surrounded by a moat of asphalt, and a big luxury apartment complex is un-walkable.

That's a lot to unwind, and much of it is outside the scope of this study. It's still worth thinking and talking about, though, because there's a lot of potential in this part of the city, especially if the state ever decides to truly shake things up on the State Office Campus. And as with any situation of this type, the best time to start planning for it will always have been sometime in the past.

Earlier

+ There were a bunch of good comments on the post previewing this meeting.

+ A way to say "more like this" when it comes to talking about how streets are designed

+ A cookbook for designing Albany streets

Comments

Well, expecting new development an acting based on existing traffic level don't really add up....

Please, Please, Please no road diet. Please. Do not take away any lanes on that road. Traffic is bad enough during rush hours without shrinking the road and giving cars less lanes.

I have lived in the Melrose neighborhood for ten years and I can tell you that the Washington Ave corridor in question has only gotten more congested the longer I have lived here, especially when SUNY is in session. I am curious what time of year they did the traffic study, if they measured traffic during the summer I could understand how their findings might show the road as underused for its size. Otherwise I do not understand how any one would come to that conclusion. I routinely have to wait at each light or only make it through one before the next turns because the traffic is so backed up, especially at the I-90 on ramp. I wish I had been paying more attention when these new private dorms came before the zoning board. Washington Ave is the major surface artery into Albany from the west and is an essential connection to the Thruway and the State loop. Why on earth would you build multiple dorms on the other side of a 6 lane major artery? Of course there is a problem with pedestrians crossing... Because they should have never built high occupancy private dorms on that ridiculously tiny sliver of land between a major surface street and a freaking interstate. I understand strangling Western ave with more pedestrian traffic, lights, and bike lanes, but please leave Washington Ave alone, there needs to be some way to get in or out of the city of Albany with some expediency for local residents. I am annoyed with the speed limit set at 30 but I am willing to accept that as a necessary compromise for safety but I refuse to concede any more to developers of projects that are ill conceived just to they can fill their units or charge more for rent, all the while just adding more drivers to the already congested streets.

You are not IN traffic.

You ARE traffic.

Side topic:

Is Brevator between Western & Washington one lane, or two? Let's settle this today please.

Also, pave it.

Washington Ave really needs some repairs, but I'm more concerned about safety (as a pedestrian and motorist) on Central Ave.

While we're at it, who in heck conceived of the SEFCU/CDPHP/Alexander apartments area the way it is? There is no way for people who live locally who work/have business there to walk/bike in safely (and little bus service), and people coming out of there and merging into that area take their lives in their hands as everyone jockeys lanes. My husband has come close to hitting people jogging in the street on the State ring on his commute, and I've been nearly hit numerous times on a couple of blind crosswalks there. Instead of being an asset to the area, the whole thing is a nightmare.

>projects that are ill conceived

YES. This reminds me why "right to farm" laws exist. Developers used build and sell houses on cheap land deep into in rural areas and sell them to unsuspecting buyers. The newcomers will get unhappy about the neighbors, would complain/sue and eventually displace farmers who came there first.
Washington avenue dorm developers seem to employ the same tactic: bring in unsuitable housing and then redo the whole neighborhood to their liking displacing and oppressing people who lived/worked there before they came in.

Cleaning up the Patroon Creek section would be worth it alone.

I'm relatively new in town still, and there are so many places in the Albany area where lanes disappear across intersections, exit ramps and turns are not marked soon enough in advance or are marked unclearly, and street signs at intersections are simply absent (that is more an issue in the core of the city). Complete streets shouldn't mean that the lane you are in just vanishes when you cross an intersection. And then there are office complexes without large enough numbers to read from the road. And buildings, as at Patroon Creek, set back from the main drag, so you can't see anything as you approach. If you've never been there before, you're doomed.

The ring roads around the State Campus are a nightmare. The pointless loop de loops on Campus Access Road and University Drive are infuriating. Forget about walking or biking: I want to live!

Few newer transportation routes here seem to be designed for the stranger. Like 787, many routes seem overbuilt, even if they're not elevated highways. I don't have any problem with the straight(ish) grids of the older parts of the city. But, hey, maybe it is me and my GPS/phone app maps . . .

Washington Avenue needs to stay two lanes in each direction, but they could be narrowed so that there could be a nice median as well as a protected bike lane in what are now the shoulders of the road. Harriman and Patroon campuses are horrible in and of themselves and would require a far more extensive overhaul. I hope that gets done, but it would require tens of millions of dollars to redesign those streets and overpasses, if not more than $100 million when you think about rebuilding bridges. The urban planners and architects of the 1960s should have all gotten their licenses revoked. They stuck us with this suburban wasteland. They threw out 6,000 years of urban architectural knowledge.

I second the comments of Dailyplanit and Brendan above.

Also too: washington avenue sucks, patroon creek sucks, 85 sucks.

I live near this neighborhood and walk, drive and run in it a lot. It is dangerous and weird. Running at extremely early hours is safe simply because no one is around. But those roads are treacherous during normal hours. The potholes are epic; the rubble in the shoulder is insane. The speed limits don't match the appearance of the road.

So yes, slow it down, reduce lanes, and plant a LOT of trees please. Completely eliminate the ring road around the Harriman campus and reduce the size of the campus itself. Make it a grid and start building housing in there. It would sell like hotcakes, add to a nice neighborhood, and add to the tax base.

I went to this meeting and am glad that I did.

Road diets can be very effective tools to not only calm traffic, but make it flow better. Creating streets that benefit not just drivers, but all who use them are critical if we are to create a City that is desirable for those who want to live in Cities. People want walkable or bikeable, and further moves towards that are the future.

I also agree that we cannot look at this in a vacuum. Something needs to be done about Brevator. It looks like it was built through a grant from NHRA. (BTW, to the one commenter, Brevator is one lane, as confirmed at the meeting by APD and Traffic engineering. It is not large enough to be legally considered a two lane road. The fact that it is constantly used as one indicates it is too large!)

Bryan - with full set of turn lanes, efficiency is not an issue for the road in question.
And it was not that long ago that Washington was heavily backed up every evening as commuters were leaving state office campus.
It is consolidation of state offices in downtown that reduced the traffic to managable volume.
That is, if there are any serious plans to use that campus - a good look at traffic options is a must. But, I suspect, history will repeat itself. Remember that single rail track between Schenectady and Albany?
If anything, extending to East Ludiys has to be brought up.

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